7th January 2021

Solidarity and Stability Deal

Recently, the Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince has said that the Gulf States had signed Solidarity and Stability Deal.

  • Qatar has remained under an air, land and sea embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since 2017.
  • The Saudi-led bloc also severed diplomatic relations with the gas-rich country, accusing it of funding terrorism and backing its regional rival Iran.
  • Doha denies supporting terrorist groups, but admits to supporting Islamist movementsincluding Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Solidarity and Stability Deal

  • It is an agreement on regional “solidarity and stability” aimed at resolving a three-year embargo against Qatar.
  • The accord emphasizes Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability as well as the strengthening of friendship and brotherhood.
  • The deal is seemingly influenced by a desire to pre-empt pressure from an incoming Biden administration, more than a genuine commitment to conflict resolution.
  • Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt will lift the blockade on Qatar, and Doha will drop related lawsuits.
  • The leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council signed the Al-Ula declaration.

Gulf Cooperation Council

  • Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries.
  • The member nations are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.
  • The GCC was established in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May 1981.
  • The GCC promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states and holds a summit every year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.
  • The purpose of the GCC is to achieve unity among its members based on their common objectives and their similar political and cultural identities, which are rooted in Arab and Islamic cultures.
  • The presidency of the council rotates annually.


Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) 

Recently, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has released INDIA REPORT on Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI).


  • It covered a baseline sample of 72,250 individuals aged 45 and above and their spouses including 31,464 elderly persons aged 60 and above and 6,749 oldest-old persons aged 75 and above.
  • The baseline samples were covered from all States and Union Territories (UTs) of India (excluding Sikkim).
  • The evidence from LASI will be used to further strengthen and broaden the scope of National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly.
  • The LASI has embraced state-of-the-art large-scale survey protocols and field implementation strategies including representative sample of India and its States.
  • The report stated that 75% of the elderly in India suffer from one or the other chronic disease, 40% have a disability and 20% go through issues related to mental health.
  • In India, the self-reported prevalence of diagnosed cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) is 28% among older adults age 45 and above.
    • The prevalence of CVDs increases with age from 22% among those in age 45-59 to 34% among those in age 60-74, and further to 37% among those age 75 and above.
  • It found that more than a half of elderly age 60 and above in the states/UTs of Goa (60%), Kerala (57%), Chandigarh (55%), Andaman & Nicobar (51%), and Jammu & Kashmir (51%) reported that they have been diagnosed with CVDs.
  • It highlighted that around a third (32%) of elderly age 60 and above have been diagnosed with hypertension, 5.2% were diagnosed with chronic heart disease and 2.7% with stroke.
  • The self-reported prevalence of diabetes mellitus among older adults age 45-59 is 9% and among the elderly age 60 and above is 14%.
  • It highlighted that in India, 26% of older adults age 45 and above reported that they have been diagnosed with single morbidity and 18% have been diagnosed with multi-morbidities.

Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI)

  • It is a full–scale national survey of scientific investigation of the health, economic, and social determinants and consequences of population ageing in India.
  • The National Programme for Health Care of Elderly, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has undertaken the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India.
  • The other partners were International Institute for Population Sciences, (IIPS), Harvard School of Public Health, University of Southern California, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and National Institute on Ageing.
  • It is India’s first and the world’s largest ever survey that provides a longitudinal database for designing policies and programmes for the older population.
  • The unique feature of LASI is the coverage of comprehensive biomarkers.


Vertical and Horizontal Reservations 

Recently, Supreme Court last month clarified the position of law on the interplay of vertical and horizontal reservations.

Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

  • The reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is referred to as vertical reservation.
    • It applies separately for each of the groups specified under the law.
  • The horizontal reservation refers to the equal opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, veterans, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.

Application of two categories of quota

  • The horizontal quota is applied separately to each vertical category, and not across the board.
    • It implies that if women have 50% horizontal quota, then half of the selected candidates will have to necessarily be women in each vertical quota category i.e.half of all selected SC candidates will have to be women, half of the unreserved or general category will have to be women, and so on.
  • The interlocking of the two types of reservation throws up a host of questions on how certain groups are to be identified.

Judicial viewpoint on Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

  • The court states that if a person belonging to an intersection of vertical-horizontal reserved category had secured scores high enough to qualify without the vertical reservation, the person would be counted as qualifying without the vertical reservation.
    • The person cannot be excluded from the horizontal quota in the general category.
  • The judiciary has also quoted that if a person in the SC category secures a higher score than the cut-off for the general category, the person would be counted as having qualified under the general category instead of the SC quota.


School Bag Policy 2020 

Recently, the Directorate of Education has issued a circular asking schools to follow the new ‘School Bag Policy 2020’.

  • The Ministry of Education had notified the new school bag policy in December 2020which is in line with the new National Education Policy (NEP).

School Bag Policy 2020

  • It is formulated by the Expert Committee comprised of members from NCERT, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan (NVS) and CBSE.
  • It is released by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
  • The school teachers should inform the students in advance about the books and notebooks to be brought to school on a particular day and frequently check their bags to ensure that they are not carrying unnecessary material.
  • The weight of the school bags, as per the policy, should be 1.6 to 2.2 kg for students of Classes I and II, 1.7 to 2.5 kg for Classes III, IV and V, 2 to 3 kg for Classes VI and VII, 2.5 to 4 kg for Class VIII, 2.5 to 4.5 kg for Classes IX and X and 3.5 to 5 kg for Classes XI and XII.
  • It adds that the teachers should take the responsibility of checking the weight of school bags of the students every three months on a day selected for the whole class.
  • According to new National Education Policy (NEP), the weight of school bags for students between classes 1-10 should not be more than 10 per cent of their body weight.

Need for School Bag Policy in India

  • The heavy school bags are a serious threat to the health and well-being of students.
  • The heavy school bag has severe/adverse physical effects on growing children which can cause damage to their vertebral column and knees.
  • In the schools which are functioning in double or multi-storey buildings, children have to climb the stairs with heavy school bags which further aggravates the problem.


ZyCoV-D Vaccine 

Recently, the Drug firm Zydus Cadila has said that it has received DCGI approval to initiate Phase III clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D.

  • The Zydus vaccine was the third candidate in India to get the nod to conduct Phase III clinical trials.
  • The Zydus vaccine is very stable at 2 to 8 degrees and can be stored in a normal refrigeration temperature.
  • It makes the plasmid DNA vaccine ideal for access in the remotest regions of the country because it will be administered through the intradermal route.
  • Under intradermal route, the dose is injected in the skin and not the muscle, leading to lesser pain.
  • The National Biopharma Mission, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research, and National Institute of Virology have supported the development of ZyCoV-D.


Judicial Review

Recently, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to treat the Central Vista project as a unique one requiring greater or “heightened” judicial review.


  • The majority view of the Supreme Court said the government is “entitled to commit errors or achieve successes” in policy matters without the court’s interference as long as it follows constitutional principles.
  • Judicial review is never meant to venture into the mind of the government and thereby examine validity of a decision.
  • The majority judgment said there is absolutely no legal basis to “heighten” the judicial review by applying yardstick beyond the statutory scheme, especially when the government itself had accorded no special status to the project.

Judicial Review

  • Judicial review is the power of the judiciary to examine the constitutionality of legislative enactments and executive orders of both the Central and State governments.
  • The doctrine of judicial review originated and developed in the USA.
  • It was propounded for the first time in the famous case of Marbury V. Madison (1803) by John Marshall, the then chief justice of the American Supreme Court.
  • The Judicial Review has been classified into three categories:
    • Judicial review of constitutional amendments.
    • Judicial review of legislation of the Parliament and State Legislatures and subordinate legislations.
    • Judicial review of administrative action of the Union and State and authorities under the state.

Constitutional Provisions for Judicial Review

  • Article 13 declares that all laws that are inconsistent with or in derogation of the Fundamental Rights shall be null and void.
  • Article 32 guarantees the right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights and empowers the Supreme Court to issue directions or orders or writs for that purpose.
  • Article 226 empowers the High Courts to issue directions or orders or writs for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights and for any other purpose.
  • Article 227 vests in the High Courts the power of superintendence over all courts and tribunals within their respective territorial jurisdictions (except military courts or tribunals).
  • Article 245 deals with the territorial extent of laws made by Parliament and by the Legislatures of States.
  • Article 246 deals with the subject matter of laws made by Parliament and by the Legislatures of States (i.e., Union List, State List and Concurrent List).
  • Articles 251 and 254 provide that in case of a conflict between the central law and state law, the central law prevails over the state law and the state law shall be void.
  • Article 372 deals with the continuance in force of the pre-constitution laws.


WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy

Recently, WhatsApp’s updated terms of service and privacy policy gives more insight into how the messaging platform will use user data and share it with its parent company Facebook going forward.

Important WhatsApp Policy Changes

  • Rule 1: Defines ‘personal sensitive data’ as debit or credit card information, internet passwords, medical records, etc.
  • Rule 2: Each corporate body should provide a privacy policy for dealing with sensitive data and personal information.
  • The policy shall be on the website of the company. The policy should include:
    • The type of information or data collected.
    • The use and purpose of collecting such data-It must be clear and easy to interpret the statement of a company’s practices and policies.
    • Security practice and procedures
    • Disclosure of Information
  • Rule 3: The provisions that govern the collection of personal information by corporates:
    • An information provider can decide to opt out of providing such information at any stage
    • A grievance redressal body should be set up to solve discrepancies
    • (Sensitive or personal data) should be disclosed to the user. The data cannot be collected without users consent
    • Data shall not be kept post its time limit or for a period longer than required.
    • The information collected shall be used only for the intended purpose it was collected.
  • Rule 4: In order to disclose sensitive information to third parties, the information provider’s consent is required. Except in cases mandated by law.

Changes with regard to other Facebook Company products

  • WhatsApp’s new privacy policy notes that when users rely on third-party services that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.
  • WhatsApp explains that when a user relies on this, information such as IP address and the fact that you are a WhatsApp user, may be provided to the third-party in question or to another Facebook company product.
  • The WhatsApp clarifies that when someone is using third-party services or other Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern the use of those services and products.

What sort of hardware information is WhatsApp collecting?

  • WhatsApp says it is collecting new information around from the device such as battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information.
  • It includes language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers.

What about data location and storage?

  • WhatsApp also clearly mentions in the privacy policy that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers, including those in the United States to store user data.
  • It also states that the data in some cases will be transferred to the United States or other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based, adding that “these transfers are necessary to provide the global Services set forth in our Terms”.
  • WhatsApp’s new policy states that even if a user does not use their location-relation features, they collect “IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country)”.

What does WhatsApp New Privacy Policy meant for Businesses?

  • WhatsApp says that any businesses that users interact with may provide the platform with information as well.
  • The policy further explains content shared with a business on WhatsApp will be visible to “several people in that business”.
  • It also states that some “businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers”.


Using God’s name to sell articles illegal

Recently, the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench) has held that the sale of items, claiming that they possess miraculous or supernatural powers via television advertisement is illegal.

  • The petition sought prevention of the telecast of advertisement on TV channels by which there was promotion of sale of articles like Hanuman Chalisa Yantra.
  • The Petitioner, through his plea, stated that he came across advertisements on TV channels which were propagating that there were special, miraculous and supernatural properties/qualities in Hanuman Chalisa Yantra, which the advertiser was selling.
  • It was contended in the petition that there was a false propaganda that the Yantra was prepared by one Baba Mangalnath, who had achieved Siddhi (ability to do anything).

Observations made by Court

  • The bench held that the TV channel, telecasting such advertisement, would be liable under the provisions of the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.
  • The Bench has also directed the State to register crimes by giving reports against the persons, who are making such advertisement and who are selling such articles.
  • The Bench perused Section 3 of the Black Magic Act, and remarked that it was easy to infer that extracting money from the people by selling articles like Hanuman Chalisa Yantra, which is like a pendant, was covered by the said Section.
    • No person shall either himself or through any other person commit, promote, propagate or practice or cause to promote, propagate or practice human sacrifice and other inhuman, evil and aghori practices and black magic mentioned or described in the Schedule appended to this Act.
  • The Court noted that the qualities or properties of the Yantra mentioned in the advertisement, showed that claim was made about its qualities, which are special, miraculous and supernatural.
  • It may be noted that Section 3 of the Black Magic Act prohibits not only commission of act of black magic, evil practices etc., but also propagation, promotion of such practices and magic.
  • Duty to Develop Scientific Temper: Quoting the fundamental duty to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry, the Court said that the reformist have worked to remove evil practices and spread awareness against superstition in the society were born in this soil.

Direction issued by the Court

  • The propagation for sale by advertisement of any article by giving it name as Yantra or otherwise, by attaching the name of any God to such article is illegal.
  • The representation of products having special, miraculous and supernatural properties/qualities is illegal and such propagation, advertisement falls under Section 3 of the Maharashtra Black Magic Act, 2013.
  • The State and the Vigilance Officers appointed under the Maharashtra Black Magic Act, 2013, have been directed to register crimes by giving reports against the persons, who are making such advertisement and who are selling such articles.
  • The State Government has also been directed to see that the telecast of such advertisement on TV channels is stopped immediately in coordination with the authority created by the Central Government under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.


SEBI moots entry norms to set up stock exchanges

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has proposed a new framework for ownership of market infrastructure institutions (MIIs) to facilitate new entrants to set up stock exchanges and depositories.

  • The stock exchanges and depositories fundamentally represent the intersection of technology and markets and SEBI said there is a concern that excessive concentration may lead to abuse of one’s dominant position in the business.
  • The entities may fall behind the curve in embracing innovations which have a direct bearing on enhancing efficiency in trading and record-keeping space and improving supervision and risk management practices.
  • According to SEBI, there is a need to forge a competitive landscape in MIIs’ space by way of creating an enabling ownership framework which facilitates not only the entry of new players but also enables merger and acquisition of the existing entities.

Key Highlights

  • The proposal said that a resident promoter setting up an MII may hold up to 100% shareholding, which will be brought down to not more than (either 51% or 26%) in 10 years.
  • The SEBI provided that a foreign promoter from Financial Action Task Force FATFmember jurisdictions setting up an MII may hold up to 49% shareholding, which shall be brought down to not more than (either 26% or 15%) in 10 years.
    • The foreign individuals or entities from other than FATF member jurisdictions may acquire or hold up to 10% in an MII.
  • The proposal also states that any person other than the promoter may acquire or hold less than 25% shareholding.
  • The SEBI’s proposal has also called atleast 50% of ownership of the MII may be represented by individuals or entities with experience of five years or more in the areas of capital markets or technology related to financial services.
  • The proposal has called for Market Infrastructure Institution (MII) to be a public limited company.
  • It has been proposed that the appointment of MD and CEO of the MII should be for maximum three terms of three years each, subject to the age limit of 65 years.
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